2017-04-20 / Front Page

Town still mulling clubhouse future

Council will study second floor instead of finished basement

Town Administrator Andy Nota and his planning team continue to work with architects and estimators to reach a solution for the golf clubhouse.

Nota updated the town councilors Monday night on the project that has spanned three administrators and an interim one. Following a request from Councilwoman Mary Meagher, town staff also is vetting an unfinished second floor opposed to the finished basement previously suggested by architect Bill Burgin. She said the consensus was that the basement was offering “less bang for your buck,” while foregoing an upstairs would be detrimental to future expansion.

“I don’t want them cursing us 20 years from now because they have to rip the roof off,” Meagher said.

The exchange came in the wake of an April 3 presentation that unveiled the “sticker shock” of a $1.91 million base building. That price, however, was for a clubhouse that didn’t include a gazebo, fireplace, cart garage, finished basement and decking, all of which were approved as part of the scope during a January meeting. The total price for the preliminary plan with those amenities, which was presented to the public through a 3-D simulation, was $2.74 million, according to a report by Town Engineer Mike Gray.

Nota reported new numbers Tuesday morning. With contingencies, the base building with the cart garage and gazebo is estimated to cost $2.19 million. A finished basement with walkout patio would cost an additional $500,000, while a finished second floor would total $775,000. However, he is not sure what an unfinished upstairs would cost.

Nota is now expected to return to the councilors at their May 1 meeting with that number. In order to get a warrant ready for the June 5 financial town meeting, he said, the council would have to vote that night on a cost to put before the voters. A special election, however, is scheduled for Aug. 22 because of Teresa Paiva Weed’s resignation from the Rhode Island Senate. To appear on that ballot, Nota said, a finished question has to be submitted to the state Board of Elections 75 days before the election. That would give the councilors another month to mull the project.

The other options are a special meeting or an all-day referendum in the fall. Finally, waiting until the 2018-19 budget cycle is another alternative.

“We have an existing building that is causing problems now,” Trocki said. “I don’t want to rush this through, but we have been working on this project for years and years and years. I don’t want to kick the can down road.”

“I think if we go beyond the fall, that’s too far,” she added.

Councilman Blake Dickinson said the town has not done a good job selling the clubhouse, saying a referendum would be “dead on arrival” if taxpayers voted today. It’s more difficult to justify public spending for a clubhouse, which is used mainly by golfers, than a fire station necessary for public safety, he said.

“This project is eerily similar to the PAC Club,” said Dickinson, pointing to the failed vote in April 2015 to purchase the Holy Ghost hall.

Gray, who has led the planning team through the process, urged the councilors not to take any steps back. He said the footprint represents the golf course’s basic needs, while including a 1,000-square-foot community space that is smaller than the upstairs of the existing building.

“That’s really where we spent most of our energy,” Nota said. “The first floor with cart storage and the community space.”

“You’re 90 percent there,” Gray said.

With that bare-bones plan, the planning team is hoping the council can decide on the final steps, whether that means a second floor, a finished basement or nothing. Nota will provide those options with cost estimates at the May 1 meeting. “No one is happy with the cost,” he said. “But it’s part of doing business these days for local governments.”

“We have one opportunity for this,” Trocki said. “We need to take advantage of that.”

Trocki agreed with Gray that some tweaking could solve the problem. “It’s not a matter of reinventing the wheel,” she said.

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